The Diary of a Young Girl
Author: Anne Frank
“The Diary of a Young Girl” is one of the most enduring, personal and most heart-breaking books ever because it is not a work of fiction but one of fact as seen through the eyes of a girl during the Holocaust during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. What makes this entire reading experience upsetting still is the fact Anne herself was deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp not long after her last journal entry and left the world due to typhus two weeks before the British troops liberation in April of 1945 – we are reading the last testament of a girl who had not reached womanhood and had such dreams for the future. Not only does it hammer home the tragedy of this terrible historical event, it also reminds us that every day people were involved, young and old who had at that point been treated is invisible and insignificant.
Through Frank’s prose, we are reminded not just of the fact war is indiscriminate and terrifying, there are human minds on all sides of the battlelines and young Anne was but one face and name in many. Anne’s father, and only surviving member of the family, Otto Frank, retrieved his daughter’s journal and set about having his daughter’s words published as a means of an account and preserving the memory of his family.
When Anne received her diary for her 13th birthday, she named it ‘Kitty’ and referred to it as her one true friend- the one she could confide her secrets, her worries and her joys to. Kitty was there every day and night for her and would never judge or blame her for any trespass she would commit against herself or her peers.
Reviewing this book is extremely difficult because I do not want to insult the memory of Frank and every other victim of this vicious chapter of human history, but I find it is tremendously important for us to realise that nobody was faceless, and Anne was one example of this. Anne hid with her family in a concealed space in her father’s office building in Amsterdam and for two years she chronicled her life in this environment, her relationships with her parents, her sister Margot and her roommates including a stranger known as Mr. Dussel and the van Pels, one of them of particular focus being Peter, whom she began to develop feelings for after at first not enjoying his company.
Through Anne’s eyes and words, we witness just how risky this entire arrangement was, but in a sense, we are also able to appreciate how Anne began to mature as an individual. She watches the family dynamic shift, allegiances with her fellow tenants changing and the nebulousness state of affairs over the next two years during their hiding, and she comments on them bluntly. She is not always fair in her assessments, but she was writing how she was feeling at any particular time that. She was just as precocious yet juvenile as any early adolescent is- she was talkative and gregarious, she had a temper and she had her passions, she was just like any of us at that age, but she also understood that she was in a dangerous and uncommon scenario and this fear is obvious in some of her writing.
In a way, Kitty is us and Anne is divulging her heart and entrusting her innermost self to us- obviously this isn’t literal because Anne didn’t know just how public her personal thoughts would become, and a journal is meant to be private, but the human factor of history is what affects us most. Statistics, politics and numbers are empirical, cold and clinical but words, feelings and experiences are intimate and it is these things that truly matter to us as humans. Often times I found myself wondering what sort of woman Anne would have become if her life had not ended prematurely- would this journal still have been published or would she have kept her chronicle for her eyes only and her memories remaining sacred? In an entry dated on the 5th of April 1944, she writes-
“I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write …, but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent … And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! … I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”
Anne had such high aspirations for the life she wanted to live and the goals she desired to achieve before it was snatched away from her from a force that declared itself as God. Who would you have been, Anne?
This is an important book in every sense of the term that subsequent generations have been blessed with because it opens your eyes and kicks you in the heart. “The Diary of a Young Girl” is not just history, it is also humanity at it’s core. I hope this book is not forgotten- not to rub righteous soap into the eyes of others, or even to whack Justin Bieber over the that Chewbacca’s arse hair mop of a head with, but to educate future generations and to honour the memory of the casualties of war as well as the memory of Anne herself.
Review written by Bea Harper